'solar_system' photo (c) 2006, Kabsik Park - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

If I’m teaching a Geography class to English Language Learners, or a straight English class to Beginning or Intermediate English Language Learners, I will teach a series of units that begin with Planets and Space; then go to the Earth and its continents; next to our country; then to our state; next to our city; and then, finally, to our neighborhood.

The Essential Question that guides this series is “Where Do We Live?”

I thought readers of this blog might be interested in several “The Best” lists sharing the websites I use to support these studies, and so I’m starting off with The Best Sites For Learning About Planets & Space.

As in all my lists, the criteria for a site to be here include that it must be accessible to English Language Learners and providing engaging content: I haven’t listed these sites in any order of preference.

Here they are:

The Starchild site from NASA has several excellent pages that provide images, text, and audio support. They include ones on the Solar System, the Universe, what they call Space Stuff. and short biographies of space pioneers.

A neat interactive exercise where students can Design A Satellite.

The Language Guide page on Space-related words.

iPlanetarium has a nice interactive guide to the Solar System that gives basic information in an engaging way.

Speaking of the International Space Station, The New York Times has a nice interactive timeline called “Assembling The International Space Station.” USA Today has a similar graphic.

The BBC has a good series of videos reviewing NASA’s Fifty Years In Space.

The New York Times has an interactive graphic about the future of space travel, as well as a slideshow on the same subject.

Learn more about space travel at McDougal Littell’s Animated History of The Space Program. Be sure to click on the lower left hand corner to see the words that are spoken, and use the menu on the upper right to explore all the great activities.

How Stuff Works has a bunch of short videos on space travel.

Brainpop has a couple of excellent movies, but you have to pay for a subscription (usually) to view them. You can also get a free trial easily. The movies are on the Apollo Project and the International Space Station.

Enchanted Learning has a couple of decent astronaut clozes that have to be printed out (or, as I have students in my U.S. History class do, just copy and paste into their blog)  — one on  John Glenn and the other on  Sally Ride.

Here’s a good textbook exercise on the first Moon Landing.

U.S. Citizenship Podcast just wrote about an an excellent Voice of America Special English series on The History of The U.S. Space Program. These are great for English Language Learners — the language is simple and there’s audio support for the text.

Sizing Up The Universe is a neat interactive from the Smithsonian that does a very good job at helping users gain an understanding of how big planets and moons really are.

“In pictures: The early days of spaceflight” is a slideshow from the BBC.

This is a pretty impressive two minute video showing a visual history of Space Walks:

Top 10 Strange Objects Sent into Space is a slideshow from TIME.

Ology — Astronomy

Deconstructing The ISS is a neat interactive about the International Space Station from The Washington Post.

How Big Is Space? is an impressive interactive from The BBC exploring our solar system.

How to put a human on Mars is from the BBC.

Updated! Zoomable Poster Now Shows Off 54 Years Of Space Exploration is from Universe Today.

The Online Star Register takes you a virtual tour of outer space. It’s pretty impressive, especially if you click “Take A Tour” at the top. I like it better than Google’s Sky site.

NASA Space Place is good site sponsored by…NASA.

It has lots of very accessible info about all things space-related and, with a click on the globe on the top right of the English or Spanish page, it will take you to the version in the other language.


Here’s how Smithsonian Magazine describes NASA’s new “Exoplanet Travel Bureau”:

NASA has launched the Exoplanet Travel Bureau, a visualization tool that allows users to explore the surfaces of three exoplanets: Kepler-16b, Kepler-186f, and TRAPPIST-1e. The 360-degree visualizations, which can be seen on your computer, phone, tablet or using a virtual reality headset, are artists’ renderings—there are no photographic images of these planets, so the graphics are based on hypotheticals. You can change the scene by adding or subtracting hypothetical atmospheres, creating skies, clouds and weather.

The First Photos Taken of Every Planet in Our Solar System is from The New Republic.

Solar System Atlas is an interactive from Esri.

Solar System Exploration is from NASA.

If you found this list helpful, you might want to see the other seven hundred-plus ones, too.

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